The Unwittingly Conditionally Pro-Life

Critics of the pro-life position will at times point to the seeming inconsistency of pro-lifers who support laws to prohibit abortion while opposing policies that would help create conditions beneficial to mothers and their unborn and born children, e.g., universal prenatal, postpartum, and pediatric care.  There’s something to this, as being pro-life would seem to imply being in favor of the conditions that nurture and sustain life.  There is, however, no logical contradiction in opposing abortion and also opposing public policies that would benefit the health and life of the unborn, and there may not even be an inconsistency, if the particular policies are opposed for prudent and legitimate reasons.  I’m therefore usually unimpressed with these arguments, even as someone who supports socialized healthcare.

More interesting to me is the fact of pro-lifers who oppose abortion in all circumstances–even to save the life of the mother–who nonetheless support acts of indiscriminate war such as the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima that undoubtedly destroy innocent life, inside and outside the womb.

These peculiar pro-lifers–I’ve met more than a handful in my circles–will argue that the unborn child has an inalienable, absolute right to life that cannot be violated under any circumstances. Rejecting a consequentialist ethos, they oppose abortion even when the mother’s life is at stake.  The ends do not justify the means, they would say.  And yet, when it comes to acts of war (at least within a just war), the innocent person’s inviolable right to life goes out the door.

By supporting acts of indiscriminate war, by which I mean acts of war that fail to discriminate (altogether or adequately) between combatants and innocent people, they support the direct, intended killing of the innocent.  Their defense of military strikes extends beyond those that target combatants with the unintended harming non-combatants and civilians, e.g., bombing a military target foreseeing the inevitability that some bombs will go astray.  Their defense includes offenses directed again civilian populations, not for the sake of the civilians present, as if they desired their deaths, but rather in spite of them, believing their presence in the intentionally-targeted zone counts as a justifiable cost.

Such pro-lifers are, in my estimation, unwittingly conditionally pro-life.  Their moral opposition to killing the unborn is relative to the techniques that take life and to the agents involved.  Abortion is off the table, always and everywhere, but atomic bombs and other attacks that intentionally and directly obliterate innocent populations (including the unborn) may be morally acceptable.  Much of this inconsistency may be traceable to confusion about the theory of just war or to misunderstandings and misapplications of moral principles such as double-effect.  Amanda Marcotte would mention misogyny. Whatever its cause, the inconsistency discredits the pro-life argument.  If the right-to-life activists are correct about the moral status of nascent life, then both abortion and indiscriminate warfare must be morally opposed.  To oppose the former while accepting the latter suggest that one is not at all clear about the moral status in question.

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer who blogs about culture, philosophy, politics, postmodernism, and religion. He is a contributor to the group Catholic blog Vox Nova. Kyle lives with his wife, son, and daughter in North Texas. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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84 Responses

  1. Rodak says:

    I would argue that with today’s weaponry there is no longer such a thing as “just war” if the the definition of “just war” includes as a necessary condition an unconditional ban on the killing of innocents. With today’s weapons and tactics, “collateral damage” is inevitable. When one performs acts which inevitable result certain consequences, it is mere sophistry to maintain that those consequences are not intentional. You can play word games in an attempt to jusfify the murders. but the women and children are still slaughtered as a result of actions you took which guaranteed that result.
    Just war is not impossible, mind you. Wars could be fought in such a way that all deaths of innocents truly would be unintented. But fighting in that manner would mean much higher casualties for the armies involved, so you will never see it.

  2. GordonHide says:

    My view is that the whole anti-abortion thing is utterly flawed from start to finish, so the fact that you have uncovered some additional inconsistency among some proponents I can’t get very concerned about.

  3. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Who says the people of Hiroshima and Nakasaki were “innocent?” Perhaps Ward Churchill has a point about “Little Eichmanns.”

    Regardless, why should an innocent farmboy from Iowa die storming the beaches of Japan instead? He didn’t ask for the war either.

    In the end, the moral culpability lay with Tojo and the Empire who unleashed the dogs of war. If you rob a bank and the bank guard accidentally shoots a bystander, the robber is guilty of murder.

    Tojo killed the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not Harry Truman. Truman simply had to decide who had to die, and the choice was Japanese citizens, not Iowa farmboys.

    I suppose an irony here is that those who privilege “the life of the mother” over the [innocent] baby’s make the same decision Truman did—and would be guilty of a logical inconsistency if not moral hypocrisy if they themselves condemn the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Not that I want to make a big sophistic deal of it, but it is an irony. [FTR, I don’t see how the law can deny the mother the right of self-defense if her life would be threatened by childbirth.]

    • James Hanley says:

      Let’s accept the premise that the adult citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were not innocent. It’s a dubious premise, since they had little control over the decision to go to war, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that they all supported the war effort, either materially by working in munitions factories and the like or at least as patriots who cheered Japanese victories in China and throughout the Pacific and hoped fervently for ultimate victory. Call them guilty, and say their deaths are justified.

      But what about the children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? OK, some were old enough to have made choices, and let’s say they all had made themselves guilty and deserved to die.

      What about the infants of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? What about the unborn carried in their mother’s wombs?

      Over 200,000 people died in those bombing attacks. Over 100,000 died from the firebombing of Tokyo. Tens of thousands more died in firebombing of other Japanese cities. Statistically it is impossible that none of the casualties were infants or pregnant women, whose unborn children also died.

      Can your argument account for and justify their deaths without being consequentialist in a way that necessarily makes you conditionally pro-life?

    • Kimmi says:

      if one is not innocent in the womb, then when is one innocent? Is no one innocent never?

      • GordonHide says:

        To someone like me this is equivalent to asking if any other entity living or inanimate is a valid moral agent in my society. Innocence is not the point. Whether a foetus is, from conception, a moral agent deserving of society’s protection at the expense of a recognised moral agent, the woman who bears it, who is deprived of control of her own bodily functions and her freedom to act as any non pregnant person can act.

    • Stillwater says:

      In the end, the moral culpability lay with Tojo and the Empire who unleashed the dogs of war. If you rob a bank and the bank guard accidentally shoots a bystander, the robber is guilty of murder. Tojo killed the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not Harry Truman.

      This is a remarkable thing to say on a whole bunch of levels.

      • Jaybird says:

        Remarkable? If only.

        This is an argument that I’ve heard in history courses.

        • Glyph says:

          I realize the argument looks a lot like ‘but he started it!’ but can you explain exactly why then we have laws placing the responsibility for unintended civilian deaths on the bank robbers?

          I mean, if someone invades my home with intent to harm me (it’s Tojo with a knife! I never would have seen that coming) and I shoot him, but the bullet passes through (or by) Tojo, and hits the mailman who just happened to be coming up the walk (or the paperboy) – isn’t the moral culpability of that death on Tojo? Nobody at all needed to get shot today, until Tojo burst in.

          At the risk of Godwin – when the Allies bombed a factory next to Buchenwald, hundreds of prisoners were accidentally killed or wounded.

          Are their deaths on the heads of the Allied bombardiers/leadership; or of the Nazis who imprisoned them?

          • Glyph says:

            To clarify, I am not saying this should apply in all situations, ever – it may well not apply to Hiroshima and Nagasaki (there has to be a point at which ‘collateral damage’ becomes just plain ‘damage’, IOW) but I don’t see why the argument is inherently facially ridiculous.

          • Jaybird says:

            War is one of those things that was argued differently in the 80’s than it is today, I guess. Certainly WWII was.

            But it comes down to the relationship of The Watchmen to violence.

            The argument that we have an established social contract with an established social equilibrium and then to have some bank robber run in and cause all sorts of things to happen is an argument that is startlingly popular. Sure, it’s a PR nightmare if the police shoot an innocent bystander in some violence, but the general attitude of the public remains “if the criminal hadn’t broken the law, the cop wouldn’t have had to pull his gun out of the holster”.

            The criminal? Acted. The cop? Reacted.

            The same for militaries. Hey, if Japan surrendered after the first bomb, we wouldn’t have had to drop a second. If Japan hadn’t attacked Pearl Harbor, we wouldn’t have had to drop the first. We could have stayed out of the war entirely… but once we were forced into the war, of course we’d try to win it decisively and end it definitively. We had no other option.

          • Glyph says:

            Jay, I am having a hard time parsing this. Do you agree that it can be ambiguous and depends on the specific situation, the ‘severity’ of the action, and the severity/scope of the reaction?

            For example, most high-speed chases are bad ideas. As are serving most drug warrants using SWAT teams. In both cases, more innocent people (even cops!) are more likely to be needlessly hurt/killed than otherwise.

            But that doesn’t mean that high-speed chases nor SWAT teams are inherently illegitimate. There will be times that these are the appropriate actions/reactions (again, if collateral damage can reasonably be judged excusable, given the intent and means used).

          • Jaybird says:

            Being crazy, I’m trying to keep my own personal opinions out of this as much as I possibly can.

          • Glyph says:

            Fair enough. I just didn’t see TVD’s POV as inherently ridiculous on its face, which is what I saw Still’s comment, and yr reply as saying (though again, I may not agree with TVD in this instance).

            Obviously the argument can be (and has been) invoked to excuse all sorts of abuse and excess, so it’s not ironclad.

            As often is the case, the answer for me is, ‘it depends’ – were there other options? What were the estimated costs and risks of those other options and how likely were they seen (at the time) to result in cessation of violence, and how quickly? Were the actors properly trained and vested with authority to act (that is, legitimate), and how much knowledge did they have at the time they acted? Were more lives overall spared than were lost? etc.

            I would never, ever want to be President. Heck, I was glad when I was dismissed as an alternate before deliberations at the end of the attempted murder trial that I was empaneled on. I would likely have voted for acquittal, but the defendant didn’t seem like that great a guy, and I would not have been surprised to find out that he hurt someone else later, so either way, you had the power to ruin someone’s life (the defendant’s, if he was in fact innocent and you sent him to jail; or some other future victim’s, if the defendant was in fact guilty, but was acquitted and went on to hurt someone else).

            The point is, these are not easy decisions. I imagine TVD’s hypothetical ‘Iowa farmboy’ weighed on Truman’s mind. I imagine that burning Japanese children did as well.

            I have no idea how I’d ever be able to sleep again.

        • Tom Van Dyke says:

          Hm. I came up with it rather on my own. This line of reasoning should be familiar to everyone. No wonder we’re such moral imbeciles.

          • Jaybird says:

            I’ve heard it argued from people in positions of authority. It was familiar to me.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            Clearly not everyone, JB. You should thank your school for actually educating you.

          • Jaybird says:

            Without getting into the whole “what are the different types of authority” debate and discussions of where authority comes from (and the difference between authority and power, for example), I think it’s safe to say that the closest analogy to “you made me react this way” might be the Koran Burnings from last year and, currently, the riots in Egypt over the Mohammed movie being made in Florida.

            I’m one of those who leans toward there being no Authority without Agency.

    • BlaiseP says:

      Not so fast there, Justin Bellow. We had spared both Hiroshima and Nagasaki earlier in the war because both had been centres of Christianity in Japan. Both cities were full of hundreds of thousands of refugees. They had been seen as safe cities.

      Little did they know the Americans would keep them nice and cozy, just so we could drop nuclear weapons on them.

      The Americans had signed the Geneva Convention which prohibited the bombing of civilian centres. By August of 1945 we had incinerated every major city in Japan. So much for that fig leaf in Geneva. History’s always written by the victors and the losers get to write the songs and the novels. Nothing will ever justify what we did to Japan, dropping napalm on all those civilians. You might erect some defence from necessity but do not sit up on your hind legs to tell us of Irony. Kafka says once you’ve accepted Evil, it no longer makes any demands on you to believe in it.

      • Rodak says:

        @ Blaise — Well said.

      • Tom Van Dyke says:

        Try the question again. It’s a One-Card Monte.

        Regardless, why should an innocent farmboy from Iowa die storming the beaches of Japan instead? He didn’t ask for the war either.

        Truman simply had to decide who had to die, and the choice was Japanese citizens, not Iowa farmboys.

        Geneva? That gentleman’s agreement had been unilaterally abrogated by Japan years before. Further, keeping a contract where I must kill my son and spare your daughter is the sort of slavishness to positive law that exists only in the safety of the cozy armchair.

        • BlaiseP says:

          What? Was there a question being asked? Do I need a goddamn EZ-Pass to cross your troll bridge? I don’t think so, Justin Bellow. Tojo killed a great many people, a thoroughly horrible man. But he did not kill the people of Hiroshima. We did that, as we’d done all over Japan.

          And when you get right down to it, Tom, is there some sort of moral force field which radiates out from innocent civilians on the ground, which varies according to the inverse-square law? Seemingly, this is so, for America has done things from high above which it would never do with its boots on the ground.

          The Japanese went through Nanjing and slaughtered hapless civilians with swords. We firebombed civilians with napalm, killed untold hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Ah, but there was a bigbig difference. We dropped that napalm from high above and the roar of the bomber engines sorta obscured the screams of the damned below. There’s no practical difference between the two, Nanjing and Tokyo. We certainly killed more civilians than the Japanese.

          True, the Japanese were personally more cruel, sadistic, genuinely disgusting people. Most of my mother’s childhood friends died in Japanese concentration camps. But no matter how horribly criminal the Japanese were, and they were asymptotically horrible, we actually went to the trouble of hiring the very worst of them, the Japanese equivalents of Dr. Mengele, Unit 731

          Take your faux outrage and cram it where the sun shineth not, TVD. Innocent farmboy my ass. That innocent farmboy did what he was told and loaded all that napalm into those bombers and dropped it like so much fertilizer onto populated city centres. You want to make the case that Tojo killed all those people in Hiroshima? Who burned Tokyo and Nagoya and Kobe? Santa Claus?

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            If you’d send your son to the slaughter to keep some paper agreement that the other guy broke, I wouldn’t want you for a father.

            As for the rest of your digression/diatribe, it’s too much work, man.

          • James Hanley says:


            Would you abort another person’s child to save your own?

          • BlaiseP says:

            It really doesn’t matter, Tom. Inter arma silent leges. On that basis, why do we even have to justify what we did in the course of prosecuting that war? Once a war starts, there’s going to either be a win or a draw. Them’s the rules of war. There are no others. We won and now we want to justify it.

            But my point about the Inverse-Square Law still stands. That part you’re avoiding. If it were your daughter who wanted an abortion, would you tolerate it? Or would that be a decision for her and for her physician? You want to dissect away the rules of war from reg’lar-rabbit normative rules of human conduct, very well, let’s operate on the assertion that’s possible, indeed desirable. But inside that doctor’s examining room, your rules don’t apply, either. It’s not your decision. You might decry the fact that a potential human life has been destroyed, well, we’ve already established you don’t give a shit about human life when they’re destroyed in war.

            And for the record, if I had a son like you, I’d count myself a failure in life.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            I think our work is finished here. Peace, out.

      • James Hanley says:

        Another reasons H and N had been spared firebombing was so there would be cities available for a good atomic bombing demonstration. They were literally spared firebombing just so they could also be atom-bombed. (Although in the case of Hiroshima, the target selection committee noted it was not a good incendiary target anyway, due to its rivers. Source: “Summary of Target Committee Meetings,” declassified gov’t document, in The Manhattan Project, edited by Cynthia Kelly.)

        To be clear, I’m not arguing that the presence of large numbers of Christians didn’t have something to do with why they had been spared up to that point. I hadn’t heard that before, but what I don’t know about WWII could, and I’m sure does, fill a library.

        Interestingly, the top choice of the target committee was Kyoto, but Truman and Secretary of War Henry Stimson struck that one off the list because “it had been an ancient capital of Japan and was a shrine of Japanese art and culture.” (Memo from Stimson, also found in The Manhattan Project.) So at least some values other than total victory went into the decision-making process.

        • BlaiseP says:

          Yeah, I can agree with all that, particularly that bit about saving up Hiroshima as a cruel experiment in Before ‘n After. Nagasaki had been bombed before. I just get sick of the American doubletalk on the subject of aerial bombardment of cities, especially the necessity of the nuclear bombing.

          Mind you, I understand why we did it. After the Trinity detonation and before Hiroshima, there’s an apocryphal story, though likely true enough, that Truman’s Secretary of State, James Byrnes, told Truman American would impeach him if they found out he had a war-ending weapon and hadn’t used it.

          • Rodak says:

            I’ve heard the theory that the second A-bomb was dropped simply to demonstrate to the RUSSIANS that the first one, a) wasn’t a fluke; and, b) wasn’t the only one we had. It was a warning to the Soviets not to try to come down out of Vladivostok and try Japan a second time, now that she was defeated and helpless. So it wasn’t even about Japan.

          • James Hanley says:


            Yes and no, sort of. It seems probable–although there’s no definitive evidence–that part of the decision-making in dropping the bomb was not only to save lives of American soldiers, but to hasten the end of the war so as to keep Russia from invading Japan (since the war in Europe had ended, freeing up Russian forces). Strategically that would be a very sensible action. But that refers to dropping the bomb at all, not specifically to the second one.

            The reason for the second one was that the Japanese had not yet surrendered, despite having three days to do so. The internal debate in the Japanese government was complex, with some ready to surrender and others opposing it. After the second bomb, the Emperor essentially made the call, but even then not all his generals were on board with the decision.

            In fact those were the only two bombs we had at the time, but we were still making plutonium as fast as possible, and were, I think, 2 or 3 weeks from having the next bomb ready.

          • James Hanley says:


            Yes, I’d forgotten about Nagasaki being a backup target that had already been bombed. Poor folks, doomed by bad weather elsewhere. And others saved by their good fortune to have bad weather that day. Their living or dying didn’t turn on questions of innocence or guilt, but simply the presence or absence of clouds.

          • greginak says:

            The Soviets had allready declared war on Japan and invaded some of the outlying islands when the bombs were dropped. In fact it was the Soviet invasion that was just as much the final straw for hard line Japanese convicning them to surrender ( see Racing the Enemy). The J’s had been trying to get Stalin to mediate a better peace for them. Stalin had already agreed to invade the northern islands to help us out and to get some sweet booty for himself. Stalin strung along the Japanese peace feelers which the J were hopeful about even after agreeing to invade.

          • BlaiseP says:

            I suppose we’ve all endured those grainy documentaries on the Hitler Channel about the end of WW2. I have another theory about Stalin’s late entry into the war against Japan: it’s not mine, really, it’s that of my old battalion commander in Germany: he conducted military history courses for those of us who wanted to attend.

            Stalin really needed to seize control of his winnings at Potsdam. His last push to Berlin had resulted in truly dreadful casualties for the Red Army: had he proceeded more methodically and not pitted his generals against each other, vying for glory, the casualty count would have been halved.

            Eisenhower, Patton and Marshall, though they were intrepid warriors and certainly not afraid of a fight, had tried to keep their infantry casualties relatively low. The Americans and British had also blanketed their enemies in surrender passes, which encouraged the Reichswehr to simply put down their arms and come over to the Americans.

            Stalin’s Red Army was intent upon retribution, always a terrible motivator. By all accounts, the Red Army systematically raped German women in revenge for what the Germans had done to their women. They plundered, too. Stalin basically allowed the Red Army to sate itself in blood lust, then set them to the task of occupation, a large-ish task. The Czechs ethnically cleansed the Germans out of the Sudetenland and the Red Army basically let them do it. Everyone knew the score, especially Churchill, who’d warned everyone about it. Roosevelt was dead and Truman was as green as grass. Stalin knew he could buy time, enough time to nail the hides of his slave states to the walls of his barn.

            And Stalin knew about the bomb: Klaus Fuchs had kept him in the loop. He also knew the Americans didn’t have any more nukes after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We sorta let that out of the bag by continuing conventional bombing after H+N but Stalin knew more about Los Alamos than Truman did. Lots more.

            Stalin knew he could get most of Manchuria and probably a good deal of the Korean peninsula, as well as Port Arthur, the old Russian port city. That’s where the 38th Parallel line came from, communicating with the Red Army about Korea. Stalin didn’t want to provoke a war with the USA, not if he could get the Americans to do the dirty and expensive job of rebuilding Japan. Stalin’s great error was to back Chiang Kai Shek. Stalin thought Mao was an ignorant peasant. Well, we all make our little mistakes judging people, even the Man of Steel.

          • greginak says:

            I don’t use the Hitler Channel for info. I noted a book Racing with the Enemy by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa. He is a historian who had accsess to US, Japanese and Soviet archives. Dry book, great history.

          • BlaiseP says:

            Huh! Someone else who’s read Racing with the Enemy. For all the hundreds, I suppose thousands of books written on the subject of WW2, it’s one of the few which gives us some insight into what was going on inside the Red Army.

            Problem is, and my old battalion commander made the same point, nobody knew what Stalin was thinking, not even the people closest to him. He was a truly ferocious tyrant and not a terribly intelligent man, though he was possessed of a certain low cunning. His greatest trick was to fill his subordinates’ hearts with fear. Stalin knew he’d get back all the territory the Tsars of old had lost, that much he’d been promised at Yalta. So why shed any Russian blood in that cause?

    • NewDealer says:

      This beyond the pale even for you Tom

    • KatherineMW says:

      …I’m really wishing Protestantism could excommunicate people at the moment.

      Sadly, we will have to wait for final judgement for that.

  4. Rodak says:

    @ TVD — The only thing wrong with your analysis is that it demonstrates nothing but contempt for humanity.

  5. Ryan Noonan says:

    Not that this is going to advance the conversation at all, but I might point out that Nagasaki and Hiroshima didn’t prominently feature women having sex. That’s a key difference here.

  6. Rodak says:

    Misogyny as a major impetus of the pro-life movement? Yes, I guess that becomes more clear particularly now. It would not seem to have much to do with the Hiroshima half of the equation, however.

  7. Liberty60 says:

    We all need to own our moral choices, don’t we?
    If the nuclear bombing was morally unacceptable, what would have been a morally acceptable alternative?

    From what I have seen, there wasn’t any alternate ending to that war that didn’t involve hundreds of thousands of deaths.

  8. Rodak says:

    what would have been a morally acceptable alternative?

    Perhaps something like destroying the remainder of Japan’s air force with bombing raids (which would have been directed at military, rather than civilian targets); effecting a naval embargo of the main islands; and avoiding hostilities while waiting the Japanese out, until impending mass starvation (combined with a sense of futility) brought surrender. If the Japanese chose starvation rather than surrender, that would have been their choice. I don’t see A-bombing cities, or ground invasion, as the only viable choices, but rather as the most *expedient* choices. Neither represents to me the best conceivable *moral* alternative.

    • KatherineMW says:

      The Japanese position at the time was not completely settled. There’s a decent chance that the less hard-line people would have won out if the US had been willing to agree to an option that involved surrender, but guaranteed the emperor would not have to abdicate. They knew they couldn’t win by that point in the war. Given that the emperor ended up not having to abdicate anyway, it would have been a reasonable solution. But the US, based on the example of WWI, wasn’t willing to consider anything aside from unconditional surrender.

      • Rodak says:

        @Katherine — Yes, you are correct about that. And that is one of the reasons why I think that the U.S. was just intent on dropping those bombs, come what may, to show the world–and particularly the Soviets–what we were capable of. I don’t really think that the A-bombs had anything substantial to do with saving lives, on either side.

  9. It is precisely because of this attitude that Catholics misunderstand the idea of pro-life from conception to natural death with emphasis on natural. We have become hard hearted in relation to being pro-life and the consequences of war. This is currently a sad state of catechetical affairs.

    • GordonHide says:

      I’m afraid you’ve been conned by the PR men. The term “pro-life” was adopted by the anti-abortion lobby for PR reasons. It says nothing about a proponent’s beliefs about other matters.

      • Rodak says:

        @GordonHide — But perhaps it should? In any case, it is perfectly legitimate to ask someone to define (and/or defend) the terms of the label he glues to the bumper of his truck.

        • GordonHide says:

          @Rodak – Once a term becomes a synonym for a less PR friendly term it’s not reasonable to try and hold those who thus describe themselves to some other standards they never aspired to when they associated themselves with the lobby in the first place.

          • Rodak says:

            No. But it is perfectly legitimate, as I said, to ask them to explain their terms as they understand them. It’s not for me to tell you what you mean by “pro-life,” but I can certainly ask you to define it for me–especially since it is being used politically. If it were only a private matter of conscience, I would not have the right to demand an explanation. But once it is being used to move votes and attempt to influence legislation, there is no right to privacy.

          • GordonHide says:

            @Rodak – Well, you can demand as you please. Most of us have no need. We recognized the term pro-life as a PR friendly synonym for anti-abortion and left it at that.

      • Gordon,

        Super glad that there is a PR effort on behalf of life. Human, all human life, has unique significance. According to the CCC364, “The human body shares in the dignity of ‘the image of God’; it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the Body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit.”

        In my estimation, because we are created in the image of God, we give to humanity a special significance which compels us towards special care and consideration for all humans ( foe or friend) from conception to natural death. Hence why I agree with the critique on “pro-life advocates” of the current blog.

        If we are pro-life we are pro all life from conception to natural death therefore we have to carefully consider how our individual and collective actions will affect the innocent. Finally, if Pro-Life says “noting about a proponent’s beliefs” it would be interesting to find out what terminology you or anyone else would use to characterize what you actually believe. This is the reason why I always state, “from conception to natural death.” No mistaking where I stand!

        • GordonHide says:

          @Eric – You have misquoted me. I said pro-life says nothing about a proponents beliefs on other matters, (than abortion).

          – “it would be interesting to find out what terminology you or anyone else would use to characterize what you actually believe” –

          I am not a formal member of any group and I don’t much like labels. Labels, as we are discussing tend to be unreasonably redefined by others. For the record, I don’t believe in gods or human exceptionalism.

          • @GordonHide – Thanks for the clarification & I stand corrected. Q: If you don’t believe in “gods” what is the set of governing principles or those “set of ideas” that give you a moral underpinning since what we are discussing is specifically moral in nature.

          • GordonHide says:

            @Eric – “If you don’t believe in “gods” what is the set of governing principles or those “set of ideas” that give you a moral underpinning since what we are discussing is specifically moral in nature.”

            My understanding of morality is probably too different to yours to cover in a blog. Let me just say that I think it unnecessary for most individuals to consider underpinnings or governing principles. If one just obeys the moral code of conduct and the laws extant in the society of which you are a part you wont go far wrong.

        • Rodak says:

          “…the term pro-life as a PR friendly synonym for anti-abortion…”

          I don’t have to let that kind of Orwellian double-speak go unchallenged. Don’t have to, and in fact, feel obliged not to.

          • GordonHide says:

            @Rodak – “I don’t have to let that kind of Orwellian double-speak go unchallenged. Don’t have to, and in fact, feel obliged not to.”

            ?? Did you actually read Animal Farm or 1984?

  10. Rodak says:

    “?? Did you actually read Animal Farm or 1984?”

    What kind of snide question is that? Everybody my age read both 1984 and Animal Farm. (Just like we all read The Catcher in the Rye.)

    • GordonHide says:

      Yes, well doublespeak is not an Orwellian term. I believe he coined the term “newspeak” which is admittedly similar.

      I’m afraid the fault is all yours. When anti-abortionists adopted the term pro-life they intended no deception. They merely wanted to emphasize what they saw as the positive aspect of their campaign.
      The fact that some of the woolly minded liked the term and wanted to extend it into some sort of general philosophical principle is hardly a reason to criticise the originators.

      • Rodak says:

        You are correct that Orwell did not coin the word “doublespeak” — it is “Orwellian” nonetheless, just as many things are described as “Kafkaesque” although Kafka never specifically described them in his writings.

        As for “pro-life,” if it is to mean “anti-abortion” and “anti-abortion” only, then it is deliberately deceptive to not just say “anti-abortion.” And it is fair to assign a larger meaning to the term, since “life” covers so much more ground than just the products of conception (do you like that verbal evasion of what is actually being spoken of?)

        • Rodak says:

          The reason I called “pro-life” doublespeak, btw, is because it makes it sound like its self-styled proponent is FOR something, when (according to you, anyway) that person is really AGAINST something. That puts a whole different (and deceptive) spin on it. It is, in fact, a species of prevarication.

          • Rodak says:

            Finally, if the expression of one’s religious conviction (one’s witness) is to be reduced to the level of Madison Avenue sloganeering with the full approval of orthodoxy, then it becomes obvious why I have elsewhere characterized organized religion as corrupt.

        • GordonHide says:

          At the time virtually no-one was been deceived. Therefore the term doublespeak is inappropriate. Although I guess we could consider it a form of self deception but I don’t think that counts. So as their intent was not to deceive and the effect was not deceptive neither the term doublespeak nor the Orwellian qualifier is appropriate.

          The fact that you have extended the phrase that they coined to mean something else is your problem, not theirs. The term pro-life was not a phrase used in English until they coined it. Although it is true that one can suppose from its parts what it might mean, at the time no such supposition was needed or made.

  11. Rodak says:

    I quote you here:

    “I’m afraid you’ve been conned by the PR men. The term “pro-life” was adopted by the anti-abortion lobby for PR reasons. ”

    It’s a ”con” as you have acknowledged from the outset–deliberately concocted by “PR men” to make a positive out of a negative. I’m not saying that you’re wrong, Gordon. What I’m saying is that it’s wrong for religion that you’re right about the con that is the term “pro-life.”

    • GordonHide says:

      At the time nobody was conned. I might say that even today it must take a certain amount of self deception to see this as anything other than trying to present the anti-abortion stance in a more positive light. On a matter which needs public support this is an acceptable “rebranding” exercise that misled no-one. At least those responsible believed they were advancing the cause of respect for human life. Of course what they were actually trying to do was increase human misery by:

      Reducing personal freedom for women thus making them second class citizens.
      Co-opting women’s bodies against their will.
      Putting women at risk of dying.
      Trying to increase the number of unwanted children in the world.
      Trying to increase the number of handicapped children many of which would have to be cared for by the state.

      By thus threatening the quality of human life in this manner they would in fact probably have reduced overall respect for it. One notes that respect for human life is at a minimum in countries where the quality of life is also low.

  12. Rodak says:

    You are, btw, so busy trying to catch me in errors on the particulars that you’re completely ignoring the larger point that I’m trying to make. If nobody has been deceived, then orthodoxy has been incompetent, as well as dishonest. How does that advance their cause?

  13. Rodak says:

    We are now in agreement. Peace.

  14. Rodak says:

    That is, we are in agreement about the inevitable results of what they are trying to do. That said, the term “pro-life” cannot sensibly be restricted as a synonym of “anti-abortion.” Words mean what they mean and they carry, at all times, all of the connotations and denotations that are pertinent to them. So the assumptions upon which Kyle’s piece are drawn and the criticisms based upon those assumptions are perfectly valid, and must be addressed as such by any fair-minded person describing himself as “pro-life.”

    • GordonHide says:

      Well I think the person that coins a phrase not previously in use should have the right to define its meaning.

      • Rodak says:

        I disagree. It is not possible for any individual to control a given word’s connotations. It can mean to the individual subjectively, whatever he wants it to mean–to HIM; but he needs to be prepared to have that subjective meaning questioned and possibly rejected by people using different connotations.
        But even if I stipulated what you say unconditionally, you have said yourself that the term was coined by “PR” men, so any individual using it has had it sold to him through a campaign. It is not, therefore, even arrived at purely subjectively. It is like a bumpersticker.

        • GordonHide says:

          I didn’t say that total control was a right. I merely believe that when a person originates a phrase for use in a certain context with a certain meaning it is unreasonable for others to complain that the person is not using the phrase in the manner they would like it used.

          I didn’t say the term was coined by PR men. I don’t know exactly who did coin it. I was talking about the smoothies leading the “pro-life” campaign at the moment.

  15. Rodak says:

    I am not talking about how it’s USED, but about what it MEANS. If a person USES “pro-life” without qualification, it is reasonable for me to assume that the person is possibly also against the death penalty. If, however, that same person had said that he’s anti-abortion, there would have been no room for me to speculate that he is anything other than anti-abortion. If one wants to be understood, one should be precise in one’s choice of words. If one wants to be intentionally vague, it is likely because he has ulterior motives.

    • GordonHide says:

      What it means is what its originator intended it to mean not what you might like it to mean. I don’t know why you keep flogging this particular dead horse. Even the on-line dictionary accepts that the term is ordinarily reserved for anti-abortionists.

      • Rodak says:

        It’s not a dead horse, and Kyle’s post is the evidence of that. And it is evidence in the midst of abundant evidence wherever people are discussing these issues from a liberal perspective. And it’s not a dead horse because I know how language works. So do the Madison Avenue guys, btw. The subliminal effects of the connotations of words is their very bread and butter. Literalists are always fated to remain clueless in this world.

        • Tom Van Dyke says:

          Anti-fetal rights. Pro-abortion “rights.” Anti-objective morality. Relativist/subjectivist–Woman X thinks her baby is a person, so aborting it is murder. Woman Y believes the fetus is a mass of cells and not a person, so aborting it is a morally neutral act—a “choice,” like vanilla, chocolate or butter pecan. If you don’t believe in butter pecan, don’t have one.

          So it goes. He who defines the terms wins the debate.

          • Rodak says:

            Actually this debate cannot be won. The anti-abortion side can’t prove the existence of the soul, and the pro-abortion side can’t prove a negative; so the debate is endless, and the issue demands a political/legal resolution.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            Don’t concentrate on winning, then. Seek what is true and good.

  16. KatherineMW says:

    There is, however, no logical contradiction in opposing abortion and also opposing public policies that would benefit the health and life of the unborn, and there may not even be an inconsistency, if the particular policies are opposed for prudent and legitimate reasons.

    Of course there is. How can you hold to the principle that a mother must bear a child who she is financially incapable of caring for, and then oppose policies that would give her that financial capability? Not to mention that that’s exactly the kind of situation where a woman is going to be driven by pure desperation to seek an illegal abortion.

    However, I utterly share your mystification with pro-war, anti-abortion (not pro-life) people. (I’m just leaving it at “pro-war” because all modern war entails civilian casualties.) If all life is sacred, that means all life is sacred, not just the unborn.

    • Kimmi says:

      +1. I’d prefer abortions to be safe, legal, and RARE. As in, put up enough institutions that there’s no real reason to get an abortion. That it is the “clear and preferential” choice of our current free market — for a girl during high school to get an abortion? That’s a fucking travesty.

      Make it a Choice.
      Let people Choose Life.

      And then have the firm confidence that if you give people enough goodies, they’ll go through the inconvenience.

      Lefties like Honey. Rightists like Vinegar, but not the same way Buddha does.

      • Rodak says:

        It is a fact that pre-Roe pregnant girls from families who could afford it, usually “went away” for three or four months and then came back to school. The illegal abortions were usually performed on girls who could only scrape together a couple hundred dollars in order to do the necessary.
        Those who need the help most are those least likely to receive it. (But we can all sleep well, knowing–along with Mitt Romney–that they don’t get it because they don’t deserve it.)